What is a Doula?
A doula is a woman who is experienced in childbirth, through becoming a mother herself and/or by attending many births. A doula can be trained and certified or may enter the profession via her life and birth experiences. Doulas provide emotional, practical, and physical support throughout labor and birth. Many doulas work with expectant parents during pregnancy and in the postpartum period as well.
Ideally, doulas provide support to both the laboring mother and her partner or family. Research shows that when the mother and father are “mothered” in labor and early postpartum, the parents experience a “halo” effect postpartum, i.e. they start off feeling more confident in their new parenting role.
In most communities, there are doulas who offer labor and postpartum support privately, and some hospitals provide doula services for an additional cost.
Why have a doula at your birth?
Many women intuitively feel that having another woman present throughout labor would be helpful. Having a familiar face staying by her side helps her feel more prepared and confident in coping with the intensity and unknowns of birth. A doula doesn’t provide medical care, so she can completely focus on the emotional and physical support of the laboring woman.
Many fathers and partners feel reassured by the presence of a doula. Because few people in our culture (especially men) attend a birth before the birth of their own child, it is helpful to have someone who is experienced in birth be a continuous and comforting part of the birth experience. When the partner wishes to be the primary support person for the laboring woman, the doula is able to be the extra pair of hands and eyes who helps out where and when needed.
There are many reasons why some people do not hire a doula. Sometimes a couple wants to have birth be their experience, and they feel that an additional person may diminish or intrude upon it. Perhaps the couple feels confident and has a lot of mutual trust. It can also be a financial decision,so a doula is not hired in order to save money.
Some things to consider if you or your partner are reluctant to hire a doula:
A trained doula can help create and protect intimacy within the birth space. If labor is long or challenging, the primary support of even the most devoted father/partner might dwindle in sheer exhaustion. Doulas help partners discover their own strengths so that they can better support the mother. And if finances are an issue, ask around for volunteer or low-cost doulas, ask for doula services as a shower gift, or save your pennies. Doulas are worth it!
Sometimes parents think that a close friend, family member, or a friend who is a labor & delivery nurse or maternity nurse would be a great labor support, because they’ve had experience in birth. The person who will support you MUST trust birth, trust you, and have enough experience in birth that she can be a creative resource in helping you through labor’s sudden twists and turns. If the person at your birth is used to managing problems in birth, she will not necessarily know how to reassure you or make suggestions for getting through normal labor. Doulas are trained to provide emotional and practical support, both to the mother and to her partner. They are fully dedicated to being present and respectful of the mother and her birth experience.